I hope that I shall always pine
for intimacy with the vine;
A branch whose pruning knife
absorbs for me the Father’s Life.
Over and over the Gospel writer urges, as if over and over the Master had urged, “Remain in me… as I remain in you… if you remain in me…if you don’t remain in me…”
If you choose to remain in me, if you hold fast to the Vine, this is the kind of branch you’ll be – you’ll experience intimacy with me; you’ll bear much fruit; you’ll give glory to God; you’ll be my disciple; you’ll ask for whatever you want and it will be given to you.” This way of life is so inviting, who of us would pass it up? And no one of us wants even to imagine the alternative – taken away and thrown into the fire. And why is this the result of ignoring our relationship with the vine, of not working to “remain in me”, to live as God invites us to live? Why is this cutting off the result? “Because,” Jesus prompts, “without me, you can do nothing.”
Maybe this is where Jesus’ image of the pruning comes into play. The pruning it seems symbolizes the growth, often painful, that comes about through the events of our lives. This growth doesn’t come easy. And it usually calls for more than just going through the events of life. God’s pruning also calls for prayer and reflection on life’s events.
Over and over — today’s account from the Acts has a similar language in recounting that there were some in Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice…” It seems that this theme about resisting the acceptance of Gentiles into the Church we also hear over and over throughout the Acts of the Apostles. Paul spoke his truth with great conviction, but seemed to need more than one or two hearings for the folks to “get it.”
But Paul and Barnabas are patients and persistent. They make their way to Jerusalem so they can meet together to see about this matter. They accept this pruning experience; they indeed hold fast to the vine, absorbing the Father’s life as they travel up to Jerusalem.
- Sister Mary Clark is a Seton Hill Sister of Charity living at Elizabeth Seton Convent, in Pittsburgh, PA.